In terms of both improving your lifestyle and your home value, bathrooms might be best for improvements and upgrades. However, it can get expensive fast, so set priorities and decide where to splurge and where to save. There’s a big difference between upgrading fixtures and completely remodeling or build a new bathroom. In the latter case, it’s worth getting a quote from at least three bathroom contractors.
Bathroom Remodel Considerations
Second to a kitchen remodel, a bathroom remodel is the greatest home improvement you can make in terms of return on investment (ROI). Though the ROI on a bathroom remodel varies from year to year, the average return is 60 percent. (Some years it can climb to 85 percent, depending on market trends.)
As you might expect, your budget will determine the scope of your project. If money is tight, you might focus on paint. Light, neutral colors make a small bathroom feel bigger. And if everything else is in good shape, a little new paint may be all you need. If you’ve got a bigger budget, however, you may want to consider a few remodeling upgrades.
The first question you should ask yourself before undertaking any bathroom remodel is whether you want a shower, a tub, or both.
Households with young children may make better use of a tub while older homeowners may prefer a simple shower. An older couple might also want a safety tub, although selling a home later on with such a tub could decrease its appeal.
The showerhead is not to be overlooked. These days, many people opt for massaging showerheads and models that can remember your temperature preferences. Many modern, low-flow showerhead systems are designed to provide the same satisfying feel of a traditional showerhead, and models that detach from the wall are still popular as well.
A basic showerhead can cost as little as $15.00, and a higher-end model complete with bells and whistles can cost as much as $600.00. Installation costs will vary depending on the features of the showerhead (temperature memory, aromatherapy, etc.), but it’s safe to assume that you’ll pay the average plumbers’ rate of about $50.00 an hour.
If you’re remodeling in preparation for a home sale, you may be tempted to go with a higher-end shower with multiple spray heads, aromatherapy and a built-in sound system. But this is more likely to hamper a sale than it is to seal it (potential buyers may balk at something so “over the top”). If you’re planning to stay in your home, your choices should be limited only by your budget and tastes.
Average Cost: On average, it costs about $740.00 to $1,400.00 to have a bathtub professionally installed. The average cost to have a shower installed is about $1,200.00 to $2,000.00. (Note: This pertains only to replacement tubs and showers for which the proper plumbing and supports are already in place.)
Tile is another bathroom upgrade that can have a profound effect. Tiles are available in linoleum, ceramic, glass, stone and other materials. And they come in various sizes and colors. Different colors and shapes can make your shower stand out, while a unified look incorporating matching shower and floor tiles offers the appearance of a continuous floor design.
Slate and other natural stones are popular, but you must be sure to check the porosity when you use them in your bathroom remodel. Some stone types require a lot of maintenance and some may simply be unsuitable for a shower. You may consider ceramics, porcelain, marble or even granite instead.
Whatever material and color you go with, use tiles no larger than 6 inches on your shower floor. Tiles will need to be slightly angled toward the drain, and grout between the tiles adds slip resistance.
Some people will save money by purchasing a premade shower pan. While this limits color choices, the low cost (around $100.00) makes them attractive enough that many people use these and use decorative tile only from the floor to the ceiling in the shower. This turns a plain shower pan into the foundation of an eye-catching shower.
Average Cost: The cost of your bathroom tiling project will depend on whether you go the DIY route or hire someone for the job. Tiles can be installed by the homeowner with a little skill and patience. But if you have any doubts about your ability, it’s generally worth it to hire a professional. The price difference is about $500.00 (for a 53-square-foot area — DIY: $200.00 to $300.00, contractor $700.00 to $800.00).
New toilets, sinks and fixtures are one of the best ways to give your bathroom a quick boost. In fact, even a tired, old sink can get a new lease on life with some updated hardware.
Be sure that any new fixtures you buy complement the rest of the bathroom. Stainless steel faucets paired with brushed brass cabinet hardware will make your bathroom look cheap and cobbled together — no matter how much you’ve spent. The key to an attractive fixture upgrade is a uniform look.
Today, toilets and sinks come in many different styles, most of which are high-efficiency models. Some offer an old fashioned look combined with modern engineering; others offer the sleek designs of the modern age.
Whether you plan to live in your home for many years or are remodeling it to put it up for sale, high-efficiency plumbing and electrical fixtures are a good investment. Even people who aren’t particularly concerned about the environment can appreciate the lower utility bills.
Average Cost: Typically, the homeowner supplies the toilet to be installed by the professional. Most toilets cost about $100.00 to $200.00. Installed, the total cost generally falls between $200.00 and $400.00. Installing a bathroom sink costs around $300.00 to $500.00.
DIY bathroom remodelers often overlook towel racks and hangers, but they can tie a room together when they match the rest of the décor. Cabinet hardware such as hinges and handles can also be the perfect accent to finish off a bathroom. They should match the style and the finish of the sinks, towel racks and showerheads hardware. After all, it just wouldn’t do to pair rustic country cabinets with sleek, modern faucets and spouts.
Average Cost: The cost of towel racks and cabinetry hardware ranges from only a few dollars for basic models to more than $100 for designer names. The cost will depend entirely on the style for which you’re shopping.
The floor is the visual foundation of any room. What you do with the floor essentially defines the space. You have many options for your bathroom floor. And, since it’s a small space, costs are easily kept to a minimum — although choosing high-end material can still make it quite expensive as well as the price to rip out the existing floor.
Linoleum costs about $5.00 to $7.00 per square foot. It’s great for bathrooms as it’s waterproof and resistant to spills. Because linoleum expands and contracts, you must let it acclimate to the room before installation.
Marble costs about $16.00 to $18.00 per square foot. It’s a beautiful choice, but installing it correctly generally requires the help of a professional. The downside to marble is that it’s prone to cracks and staining, and it requires regular maintenance.
Ceramic costs $1.00 to $1.60 per square foot. It’s durable, easy to clean and naturally germ-resistant. The color of ceramic tile varies greatly from lot to lot.
Porcelain is a tough, slightly more expensive sub-type of ceramic; it costs around $6.00 to $9.00 per square foot. The porcelain manufacturing process allows for a variety of design. But, because porcelain has a low porosity, it requires a special setting compound. Ask the manufacturer about which compound is best; don’t rely on the sales person.
Wood is sometimes used as an accent on a bathroom floor. The cost varies according to the type of wood, which should be chosen carefully as it will be exposed to near-constant moisture.
Plumbing and Electrical
When remodeling, there is one rule of thumb: if you don’t have to modify or move it, don’t. Any changes made to the internal electrical or plumbing systems inside of your walls will require permits and contractors.
Use existing plumbing and electrical systems whenever possible. As you’re recouping only around 60 percent of your investment, completely moving things doesn’t usually pay off. If you absolutely must move things (to make room for another addition, for example), be sure to hire a reputable contractor and, if possible, make the blueprint for your home’s wiring and plumbing available.
Moving the plumbing isn’t as difficult when you have a basement or good crawlspace. Oftentimes, the plumbing is run beneath the house and involves very little work between the walls. The work must still be done by a licensed plumber or electrical contractor, but it’s much less disruptive to the interior of your home.
Remodeling a bathroom comes with many of the same requirements and considerations as adding a new bathroom. But there are differences, especially where electrical and plumbing are concerned. In a remodel, you don’t usually have have to install new systems, but an additional bathroom will require new lines.
Electrical and plumbing alterations must be done by licensed professionals, and the structure must be able to carry any additional weight (heavy tiles, a large luxurious bath tub, moving a wall, etc.). Anything that involves changes to the house’s structure, such as enlarging a window, will also require the services of a professional.
Even if you have the skills to DIY your bathroom remodel, you may still need to pull permits. Check with your state and local codes before beginning work. This will prevent a situation in which you have invested hundreds or even thousands of dollars in a project only to have to tear it all out due to ordinances. It will also prevent a situation in which great injury results from improper materials, construction or installation.
Be sure that your bathroom has proper ventilation or a window and ensure that the electrical system is on a GFCI. A GFCI, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, is a circuit that will cut power to the line if it detects something unusual in the current such as excessive moisture, a faulty component or a short circuit.
Adding a Bathroom – Costs To Consider
Adding a bathroom can cost from $3,000.00 for a simple conversion of existing space to $25,000.00 for a new addition to your house. The national average for a 100-square-foot, spa-like bathroom is over $75,000.00, so watch your budget carefully.
A new bathroom adds value to any home, especially when there is only one to begin with. But how much you’ll recoup depends on the part of the country in which you live. In the west, you can expect an ROI of roughly 67 percent; in the east you might get around 47 percent.
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The shower or tub is most often the focal point of a bathroom. Nobody goes to the bathroom sink to get away from the stress of the day. A deep, luxurious tub can be a ticket to paradise, as can a large, walk-in shower with jets that massage you from head to toe. Even a small corner shower can be an escape with the right upgrades.
Location and Weight: With tubs, your first consideration should be the area in which it will be installed. You have to be sure there’s enough room for the tub, and you also have to make sure that the floor can support the weight of a full tub and the person using it. Even if there had been a shower where you’re putting the tub, the tub will weigh considerably more even empty. By making this among your first considerations, you can prevent damage and severe injuries.
Style: You might envision a nice, country look with a deep, claw-foot tub, but keep in mind that elderly persons will have a hard time getting in and out of it. Likewise, a home with small children may get better use from a shallow, modern tub. Some people appreciate the safety of a walk-in tub, even when they have no joint problems or other health- or age-related issues.
Amenities: Some tubs have jets that provide a massaging current. Some have built-in seating, lighting and even aromatherapy. There is practically no limit to the amount of luxury that can be added to bath tubs these days.
Showers have many of the same amenities, including all-over body jets, lighting, aromatherapy and stereos. Showers can come with computers that remember your profile and set the water pressure and temperature just as you like it. Built-in soap and shampoo dispensers keep things handy, and some even spray a cleaning solution on the shower surfaces after you’ve gotten out.
If you have room, a shower can be quite spacious, but even a small shower can provide a world of escape. Natural stone can make a small shower feel like a relaxing hideaway while light ceramics make a small shower feel larger.
Average Cost: The average cost of having a tub or shower installed is around $3,000.00. Shower/tub combos involve more plumbing and can cost a little more.
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When designing your new bathroom, think about the tile and how it will affect the feeling of the space. A small tub or shower will benefit most from light colored tiles, which will give it an open, airy feel. Larger tiles are also good for small showers, but remember that shower floor tiles should be no larger than 6 inches square. This helps the grout provide grip on a wet surface, and it’s easier to provide a drain slope with smaller tile.
Give yourself artistic license in laying out the tiles. Some designs match the bathroom floor to the shower floor to give a unified look to the whole bathroom; others draw attention to the shower by giving it a look all its own. Tiles can go up the wall to the ceiling, and some continue on the ceiling to make the shower look like a separate room altogether. Changing tile styles — using larger tiles with smaller tiles as accents, for example — provides an attractive visual pop that works well in larger showers.
Average Cost: Tiles range from $1.00 per square foot to $18.00 per square foot, depending on the material.
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Though a shower or tub is the focal point of a bathroom, the toilet and sink can define the room as well. Sleek and modern fixtures give a bathroom an updated look while classic styles offer warmth and comfort.
A low, sleek toilet would not be advisable for a tall person or someone with bad knees. Similarly, a pedestal sink is more accessible for someone in a wheelchair, while a sink and cabinet would be a better choice for a house with small children to store soaps, tub toys and cleaners.
For a high-end look, some sinks have artistic appearances and faucets that resemble everything from an old-fashioned water pump to a cascading waterfall. Basins also come in many shapes, with vessel sinks (those appear to be free-standing bowls) becoming increasingly popular.
Finishes are available in styles such as brushed brass, stainless steel, copper and gold-plate, among others. Some finishes are harder to keep clean than others, so consider what sort of use the bathroom will see. A guest bathroom might not see as much use as the common bathroom down the hall.
Vanities are where you put your morning face on, and it’s only natural that you’d want an attractive place to get ready for the day. Some vanities reside in the bathroom itself. A vanity over the sink is convenient for most people, but those with a very small bathroom may elect to place the vanity just outside of the bathroom. In a large bathroom, there’s usually space to erect a small wall and give the vanity its own room.
“His and Her” vanities are still popular and help save time for a working couple. They also prevent the battle for counter space. If wall space is a consideration, vanities may also be placed in corners.
Average Cost: The average cost to install a toilet ranges from $250.00 to $460.00, depending on who supplies the toilet. A bathroom sink or vanity averages from $300.00 to $500.00.
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Wherever there’s a sink, a backsplash is a good idea. As its name implies, it keeps water from splashing back onto the wall where it can cause damage and mold.
The backsplash can make a statement all its own. A popular option for backsplashes is a set of interlocking tiles that attach with normal bonding material. This allows for more coverage in less time than it would take to set individual tiles.
Average Cost: A backsplash can cost $12.00 to $21.00, depending on the kind of tile used. Larger coverage areas will cost more.
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Installing a new bathroom means installing new plumbing. It’s best to locate your new bathroom near existing plumbing. Otherwise, the cost of running new lines to your bathroom can dominate your budget. Sewer lines must have a specific grade to ensure drainage to the city lines, and certain lines have to be of a specified diameter to accommodate a certain volume of that drainage.
It’s for these reasons and considerations that licensed contractors should be called in to add plumbing. Not only can contractors be reasonably expected to install new plumbing according to local and state codes, they should also be able to obtain the necessary permits. This also gives you a means of legal recourse if the job is done incorrectly.
Average Cost: The cost of plumbing a new bathroom depends on many factors, including the purpose of the bathroom (guest, kids, master bath, etc.), the layout of the existing plumbing, the location of existing plumbing features such as the cleanout, and what sort of foundation you have. If you have a basement or crawlspace, it will generally cost less than if you have a concrete slab foundation that has to be cut through. A basic bathroom addition can cost from $10,000.00 to $25,000.00.
Depending on the job and location, a plumber can cost from $45.00 to $150.00 an hour.
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Adding new electrical components to your home, such as those required for a new bathroom, is a bit more involved than it sounds. Adding a new room means adding new outlets and switches. These put a demand on your power supply and its interface, the breaker panel (or fuse box in older homes).
A new breaker panel costs between $50.00 and $100.00 for most residential applications. Installation can cost around $1,000.00, but it’s worth it to know the job was done right.
You will also be adding switches and outlets. These have their own requirements regarding placement, such as how high they must be off the floor.
Finally, you will be adding lighting. This can include everything from the lights over the vanity to mood lighting in a luxury shower. Oftentimes, the fixtures cost more than the labor. But hiring an electrician will ensure that things are properly wired and installed.
On average, an electrician can cost about $70.00 to $80.00 an hour.
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Before beginning your project, you should always check your state and local codes to see what permits and inspections are needed. While these can change from region to region, a good rule of thumb says that you need a permit if you are going to:
Alter the existing floor plan
Make structural changes such as adding doors or windows
Install new ductwork or reroute existing ductwork
Relocate or install new electrical or plumbing fixtures
Since all of the above items are involved in putting any new addition to your house, it’s a given that adding a bathroom of any size will require permits. Discuss with your contractor whose responsibility it is to get the permits.
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Half Bath or Full Bath?
This is a question that many homeowners ask themselves right after deciding that a new bath is needed. Many experts agree that converting a half bath to full bath can increase your home’s value by around 20 percent versus a half bath at 10.5 percent.
A half bath should be from 3 to four feet wide and 6 to 8 feet long. Anything smaller makes the space too cramped for comfort. You can find space for a half bath in many places. Some people have put them under stairs while others have made dormers into half baths. An oversized closet can sacrifice some of its floor space for a half bath, or a large bathroom can be turned into a half bath and a smaller full bath.
At the very least, a half bath should have a toilet, a sink, and a mirror. A cabinet under the sink is useful for storing extra bathroom supplies and cleaners, but if space is limited you can store these in a nearby closet for convenience.
When placing a half bath, you can keep costs down by locating it near existing plumbing. If possible, it’s best to place it on a shared wall with another bathroom. If that’s not possible, try to keep it as close as possible.
If your half bath is located near a living space, such as a dining room or living room, extra sound insulation around pipes and in the walls is a good idea — especially if you entertain guests frequently.
If you don’t have the space for a full bath but have a little room, instead of a simple toilet and sink — or trying to squeeze a tub into a small space — consider a three-quarters bath, which is a bathroom with only a shower. This will add to the smaller bathroom’s functionality.